Mysore Trip Five: Locked In

Two days ago I arrived in India for my fifth trip to study yoga at the KPJAYI in Mysore. So many things have changed since I made my first trip five seasons ago. I’m much more relaxed and strong now than I was then, so much more comfortable in the practice and in teaching, and more secure being a traveler in a foreign country.


But in many other ways, nothing much has changed. Again I’m here in November and just like my first trip, after I leave India, I’ll travel to Israel to spend time with my boyfriend’s family.

Again, I find that I brought way too many clothes.

And, just like my first trip, on my very first morning of practice, I found myself locked inside my apartment complex; unsure if I’d make it out to class.

Let me take you back a few hours…

Unlike most people, I kind of enjoy the strange effects of jet lag, especially here in Mysore, when I need to wake up so unnaturally early. Yesterday I let jet lag lull me to sleep around 4pm, woke up at midnight, and spent a relaxing few hours enjoying the silence of pre-dawn south India, reading and preparing for Led Primary at 4:30am. By 3:25 I was showered and ready. Anyone who knows me knows that I’m chronically early, but after five seasons of waiting on those steps, I’d already decided not to try to get to the shala too early. So I left at a reasonable time, assuming a good number of students would already be there.

I locked my front door, grateful for such a comfortable apartment so close to the school, and made my way down to the front gate. I was surprised to see it still locked from the night, since I could have sworn I heard several students leave the complex before me. Nevertheless I dug my keys out. The landlord told me that whoever leaves first for the morning can unlock the gate, so I’d been prepared for this.

I blinked through the pitch black, fumbled my key into the padlock, and turned. Nothing. I pulled it out and tried again. Stuck. I managed it take it out and tried three or four more times with no success. By then another student had come downstairs and she tried with her key as well…no luck. Our keys seemed to fit, but we couldn’t make any of them turn. Two more students joined us, all equally unsuccessful. (Now, I’ve had my fair share of drama with keys including managing to break a key inside a lock in Florida, and fighting with not one but two different apartment locks in Paris, one ending in tears and hours sitting in the stairwell, so it was actually reassuring to see that it wasn’t just me and my inability to use a key!)

But, let me take you back even further to November 2011: my very first practice morning of my very first season in Mysore. That year I was staying a solid 20-25 minute walk away from the shala with an Indian family who had never hosted a yoga student before. I had a tiny room on the family’s roof with a private entrance via an outdoor stairway. As I tried to leave quietly that similarly pitch-dark morning, I crept down the stairway and found it’s exit gate locked. I was totally alone: the only yoga student in the building. They hadn’t given me a key, most likely because they hadn’t anticipated I would be leaving in those pre-dawn hours.

What could I do? I had no way to climb out, and desperately wanted to attend my first practice. So, I knocked on their door. The family was fast asleep and didn’t stir, but the daughter, a girl around my age, was walking through the living room on her way to the bathroom. She squinted out the window, saw me, shrieked at the top of her lungs and ran, terrified that all her worst nightmares were coming true and a strange white woman was indeed trying to break in! Thankfully the father, realizing it must be me, his new yogi tenant, woke up and let me out. After quite a few embarrassed apologies, I made it to practice that very first day.

Back to this morning, years later, surrounded by fellow students, locked in again on my first day, I couldn’t help but laugh.

What could we do?

We threw our mats over the gate and climbed out, and again, I made it to practice today.


So, what I’m trying to say is that getting there isn’t always easy. We get locked in, sometimes literally, but more often metaphorically. We might have to ask for help, to climb fences, or make sacrifices, but it’s almost always worth it to get to practice. To meditate. To go to a yoga class. To do anything that makes us better. Usually, it’s us locking ourselves in because of stories we’ve told ourselves or ones others have told us and we’ve decided to believe.

It’s not often an actual gate locking us in, but rather it’s us actively creating obstacles that leave us locked inside our own excuses.

But if we can get past them,

if we dare to climb over,

if we can ask others for help,

if we attempt to start to undo the stories we’ve told ourselves,

…something remarkable is usually waiting.


Eyes Open


This practice of yoga has opened my eyes. It’s been a prying open. Raw. Like you might see in a horror movie: a victim’s eyes forced wide to watch some terrible scene on a flickering television screen.

Except what I’ve seen since my eyes have been forced open is not terrible at all. It’s been scary at times, but it’s ultimately been beautiful.

I have experienced joy. Inspiration. I have felt pain.

There has been loads of doubt. Almost more doubt that I could handle at some moments.


I’ve had moments of fear and moments of peaceful calm. I have surfed from that peaceful calm to the highest of highs. I have been intoxicated with love.

It has hurt. It has felt good. It has felt comforting. Like visiting a new place for the first time and immediately feeling at home.

I have become physically stronger than I thought possible. My mind has expanded in unimaginable ways.

I have felt small. And I have found the courage to talk to God. To even say ‘God.’

Today I bow to the lotus feet of my teacher, Sharath. Remembering all of these feelings and feeling all of these memories and knowing, as he says, that

“Yoga is the greatest gift a human can receive.”


A (Yogic) Photographer’s Assistant

Behind the Scenes

By far one of my favorite jobs ever has been assisting Christine Hewitt of Yogic Photos during her asana portrait sessions. She was kind enough to share some of the shots she took while I was at work:

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Assisting the beautiful Ainia into Supta Kurmasana.

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A crisp, clean shot is all about the little details. Acting as wardrobe for the lovely Elena in Natarajasana.

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We drop back with a little help from our friends: helping in urdhva dhanurasana.

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Location scouting, lighting and composition testing and bovine monitoring.

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Sometimes we decide it’s a good idea for Laila to try bakasana on a cannon. In these cases I’ll be there, just out of frame, to make sure the she doesn’t tumble down (she didn’t and it was a gorgeous shot).

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Smiling during a shoot 🙂

Mysore Trip Four: Yamas and Niyamas, Pillars of the Practice

Every morning I wake up, rub the sleep from my eyes, make a cup of coffee and try to practice Ashtanga Yoga. I start with a few hours of asana. I inhale and exhale, bending my body into different shapes and experiences, and hopefully removing some of the samskaras stuck between my joints. I try and I fail and sometime I fall flat on my face. And after the yoga rug is rolled up and the laundry is hanging out to dry, I keep trying to practice Ashtanga Yoga.

Because this yoga thing doesn’t end at the corners of my mat.

I’m attempting to allow the remnant feelings from the ritual of asana practice to spread like butter on bread throughout the rest of my day. I try to be nice. I try not to do harm. I try, through interactions with others and with myself, to practice Ashtanga Yoga. I try and I fail…

Pillars at Melukote Temple
Pillars at Melukote Temple

For the past few weeks in conference, between beautiful discussions about guru and mula bhanda, Sharath has continually brought our attention to the first two limbs: the Yamas and the Niyamas. (If you’re a Land Yoga student or following me on Instagram, you might have participated in or seen The All Eight Limbs Movement’s first few monthly focuses: the Yamas, where Lara invited us to share photos about non-violence, truth, non-stealing, energy conservation and non-greediness.)

He keeps coming back to this starting place. We can do all kinds of “yoga practices,” but if we don’t place attention on the first two limbs, the foundational pillars on which the rest of our practice is built, something big will be missing. So I’ve been spending a lot of time with them. Recognizing my failures and seeing my efforts…

“How will you know the depth of the sea if you continue to sail around on the surface?” Sharath asks, echoing one of his favorite analogies. “You have to dive in to know the beauty of the sea. Just like this you must apply all the Yamas and Niyamas to your practice in order to experience an in depth understanding. This process won’t happen suddenly…”

Pillars at the Venugopala Swamy Temple
Pillars at the Venugopala Swamy Temple


The Yamas are:

Ahimsa, non-violence:

Yoga Sutras 2.35 “As a Yogi becomes firmly grounded in non-violence (ahimsa), other people who come near will naturally lose any feelings of hostility.”

Being non-violent is important. Sharath says that our asana practice creates heat and strength, but it is important not to misuse the strength! Grounding ourselves with peaceful thoughts and actions off the mat is vital.

Satya, truth:

Yoga Sutras 2.36 “As truthfulness (satya) is achieved, the fruits of actions naturally result according to the will of the Yogi.”

We should be true to ourselves and to others.

Asteya, non-stealing:

Yoga Sutras 2.37 “When non-stealing (asteya) is established, all jewels, or treasures present themselves, or are available to the Yogi.”

Sharath reminds us that a yoga brand that steals postures to create its own yoga “style” is not practicing this yama!

Brahmacharya, celibacy or energy conservation:

Yoga Sutras 2.38 “When walking in the awareness of the highest reality (brahmacharya) is firmly established, then a great strength or vitality is acquired.”

 Aparigraha, non-greediness:

Yoga Sutras 2.39 “When one is steadfast in non-possessiveness or non-grasping with the senses (aparigraha), there arises knowledge of the why and wherefore of past and future incarnations.”


The Niyamas are:

Shaucha, cleanliness:

Yoga Sutras 2.41 “Also through cleanliness and purity of body and mind (shaucha) comes a purification of the subtle mental essence (sattva), a pleasantness, goodness and gladness of feeling, a one-pointedness with intentness, the conquest or mastery over the senses, and a fitness, qualification, or capability for self-realization.”

This applies to internal thoughts and our external environment. Asana helps to clean the internal body, but we must also do our part: keep our mat, our clothes, our home and our thoughts clean. (Also, it’s important to shower before asana practice!)

Santosha, contentment:

Yoga Sutras 2.42 “From an attitude of contentment (santosha), unexcelled happiness, mental comfort, joy, and satisfaction is obtained.”

This niyama asks us to be happy. To be deeply, internally, happy and to think good thoughts and not compare ourselves to others or to what we don’t have. We should relish each moment in this human life and find happiness that comes from within! “Santosha does not come from the iPhone 6…because next week iPhone 7 is coming!” Most of our stress and delusion will melt away with the practice of santosha.

Tapas, discipline:

Yoga Sutras 2.43 “Through training of the senses (tapas), there comes a destruction of mental impurities, and an ensuing mastery or perfection over the body and the mental organs of senses and actions.”

This niyama is related to the Sadhana, the practice and leading a disciplined life. “Without discipline,” Sharath says, “it’s impossible to learn something.”

Svadhyaya, self study:

Yoga Sutras 2.44 “From self-study and reflection on sacred words (svadhyaya), one attains contact, communion, or concert with that underlying natural reality or force.”

Self-study is the art of doing internal research and putting effort into understanding what your teacher has told you. We should become a Sadaka, one who does Sadhana.

Ishvarapranidhana, surrender to the divine:

Yoga Sutras 2.45 “From an attitude of letting go into one’s source (ishvarapranidhana), the state of perfected concentration (samadhi) is attained.”


So we have our work cut out for us! These foundational concepts are deep and complex. I love hearing Sharath talk about them and reminding us of the well-rounded life we should aim to lead. Which is why I say each day I wake up and try to practice Ashtanga Yoga… Some changes have been easy for me, like maintaining a vegetarian diet based on ahimsa…others not so easy, like keeping a disciplined schedule.

What about you?

How are the yamas and niyamas working in your life?

What are you trying to practice?

Mysore Trip Four: Travel Update and Conference Notes

“A Beautiful Habit.”

Shala Card

To get to Mysore from New York City takes roughly 30 hours. Between taxis and planes and layovers and delays I notice a sense of internal calm I haven’t felt before. This is my fourth trip. I’ve already done this three times. As my boyfriend says, it’s not a coincidence anymore… I’m not going to India on a whim. I’m consciously choosing to make this trek year after year after year.

I arrive in early morning of October 1st, stumble into a taxi and sleep for most of the 3.5 hours it takes to drive from Bangalore to Mysore. Sharp stops and turns and then,

“Madame! Sleeping? Mysore coming!” says my driver.

I pull myself upright and recognize the stretch of road we’ve entered. By the time we reach Gokulam (the neighborhood where I stay and where I practice Ashtanga Yoga), I’m ready for a proper nap.

I find my small studio apartment, shut the curtains, settle into another typically hard Indian bed, and snooze until the shala opens at 3:30pm for registration.

I have my passport photos ready and copies of my Indian Visa. I’ve printed my confirmation letter which grants me access into the increasingly in-demand shala. I have my rupees counted and stacked to pay tuition.

Because it’s the opening of the season (my teacher only opens the school for western students to practice for part of the year) it’s a week of led Primary Series classes to begin. Jetlag wakes me up at 3am the next morning. In the pre-dawn dark I make coffee and prepare for practice.

Class just feels right the next few days. Strong and soft at the same time. The shala rugs feel a faded shade of familiar. I place my mat in the front row and listen to my teacher chanting the opening mantra just a few inches away from me. I practice with a smile. I see friends from past seasons, meet new ones from all over the world, and surrender to jet lag. I get my only-in-India pink elephant print bed sheets out of storage and make my bed. I walk around with wonder still in my eyes at the sights and smells of India. I try a new Eggplant curry at lunch and marvel at how they’ve cooked the vegetable just right so it actually does melt in my mouth.

Right now everything feels comforting here. The familiar and the unfamiliar. I want to keep this beautiful habit of coming to India year after year…

As the week of Led Classes (classes during which our teacher calls out each posture and we practice together as a group) gives way to the regular classes (called ‘Mysore Style’ classes during which each student practices only the postures they have been taught, individually without a teacher leading) my back starts to ache. I see a sweet Canadian for acupuncture sessions and the pain slowly melts into comfort.

This year the day off is Sunday instead of Saturday as it has been in the past. Conference with our teacher, Sharath, is now on Saturday afternoon. It’s a small change that funnily enough has most of us wondering what day it is – constantly holding to that old, conditioned pattern of ‘the week.’

So we adapt to our new week and pile into the shala each Saturday to listen to Sharath’s wise words…

Some Conference Notes October 11, 2014

“Yoga is the greatest gift,” Sharath says to start this season at the shala. Words so simple and true we all smile softly in a reply to him.

He explains that yoga is special because of the breath and the vinyasa system, the art of placing the breath in a special way connected to your movement. This process of breathing and moving takes time to learn. It must be tuned like an instrument or like a singer might train to tune her voice.

Once one has learned to control the breath, automatically control of the mind happens.

Student questions begin to flood the room.

“Is it possible to practice with perfect vinyasa?”

Sharath says yes, it is possible and we are all working towards it. But this is something that you must do one posture at a time, slowly. At the beginning we might spend two weeks on just Surya Namaskar A and B. The first day to complete a sun salutation it takes 25 breathes! But the more we practice, the more we train to breath correctly, and over time we can complete it with one breath per movement, the nine vinyasas required to complete a sun salutation A.

A question about the importance of alignment prompts Sharath to remind us that of course the alignment of muscles and bones are important, but so are the movements, the breathing and the heat that this helps to create. These moving asanas help to purify the lungs and nervous system and create a spiritual transformation within us.

Some Conference Notes from October 18, 2014

During the second conference of the season Sharath reminds us that there is no recoded birth date for yoga. For as long as there has been this universe, there has been yoga.

Almost universally it is agreed that yoga is for calming and controlling the mind. These initial stages lead to deeper understanding and ultimately higher consciousness.

In order to begin to control the mind, Sharath spent time talking about the importance of the Ashtanga Tristana, the three points of focus. They are asana, pranayama (breathing, which brings control to the mind) and dristi.

Sharath specifically mentioned the power of the gazing point, dristi, and it’s ability to bring more focus to our practice. Our attention is always on others, on the outside. The more we bring the focus inside the more potential the practice has to become a meditative experience which can lay the groundwork for deeper spiritual growth.

Pranayama can be described as the expansion of prana. In one day we take 21,600 breaths, he says. But we can expand the breath. And if we can expand the breath we can expand our life.

The ancient risis knew this, he reminded us, because of many, many years of practice, research and experimentation. He told a story of Guruji’s village, Koushika, where the great sage Vishvamitra did many thousands of years of meditation and research. Now everyone is rushing, but this research takes time!

Sharath reminded us that “yoga cannot be described. Yoga cannot be purchased. Yoga is all that happens within you.” And without the yamas and niyamas asanas are useless. He spoke of the importance of especially satya, to be truthful to yourself and others and asteya, not to steal. He also mentioned ahimsa, nonviolence. He warned us that asanas make us strong and create heat, but it is extremely important not to misuse the strength!

One of the points that made the biggest impact on me was a question regarding the global community of teachers and practitioners and the unfortunate but sometimes unavoidable conflict and competition that arises. Sharath really encouraged the community to commit to be wise enough not to fight, and instead to unite. To have an internal focus and not worry about the actions of others. To not get worked up in politics and external distractions, but instead to correct our own actions and build a supportive community that way.


Post-India Daze

Dana Colors

Dana Colors
It takes me roughy a month to decompress from life in India and settle back in to the peculiar comforts of western life. I love these post-India days. I remember my time in Mysore vividly through my jet lag. It was truly inspiring. As I grocery shop in Harlem at 6am because I can’t sleep, the days seem to swirl together, peppered with the smooth, polished sounds of Sanskrit chanting and the peculiar rhythms of the Indian tabla drums. They burn bright in my memory with Indian sunshine. They were fueled by the crispy masala dosa, and buzzed with the caffeine from sweet chai.

My physical asana practice felt steady, challenging, but surprisingly pain-free.

My boyfriend was able to join me there for the last half of the journey and we bonded over our deep love for the country, zooming through town on a rented scooter, marveling at the perfect chaos of each intersection we somehow survived.

And I started to study the Yoga Sutras with a wonderful teacher. After the talks I’d ride home on the back of Michael’s motorcycle, grateful for the helmet on my head, which seemed to be guarding not only my actual skull, but also my thoughts from spilling out of my ears as they ran wild with philosophical questions, realizations, revelations.

I tried, as my teacher Sharath says he does, to practice yoga 24 hours a day. I’m sure I failed, but I’m sure that doesn’t matter.

I started to examine what it means to “have a practice.” I’ve been bending my body for nearly ten years now. I’ve been dedicated to a spiritual practice for about five. I’ve been trying to seriously apply the principles of a yogic life to my life for about three years.

And I feel small.

I feel like I’m a total beginner.

I feel I know nothing of the depths of practice.

And it’s thrilling.

So I dive deeper.

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali describes Practice as ‘Any effort entered in the direction of restraining the tendencies of the mind,’ and says that practice should be ‘long-termed, continuous and done with dedication (love and respect) to be fruitful.’

In that way the physical asanas start to change the patterning of our outer material body. The yamas and niyamas shape or reshape the way we interact with the world and treat ourselves. As we withdraw our minds from the chatter, we’re practicing feeling the stillness.

And in that way, in anything and everything, in each moment of our day, we can practice.

How do you practice? How do you  still the fluctuating tendencies of your mind?  Do you do it with love and respect?

*photo by Christine Hewitt of Yogic Photos

“You can sail around and around on the ocean for years. But it’s only when you dive in that you know the beauty of the sea.” -R. Sharath Jois


Conference Notes December 8, 2013


It seems like the whole shala has been sick at these past few weeks. Poor Sharath finally caught the bug and began conference apologizing and telling us he’d do his best to get through. His doubt was unfounded because he delivered an inspiring and poignant conference, as always!

Sharath began conference this week by quoting a passage from the Hatha Yoga Pradipika. By doing asana, it explains, sweat is produced. We shouldn’t waste the sweat, but instead to rub it back into the skin (a note to all you vigilant sweat wipers!). This opens the pores and allows all the toxins to come out, which in turn makes the body light and strong. Sweat should come from within, from hard work, not from a heated room. Through the effort of working on asanas and building stamina we sweat and cleanse.

He also made sure to note that we should work towards a balance of every element of practice, both strength and flexibility. That’s why in this system Guruji taught primary series first, beginning with the Surya Namaskara. The teacher should analyze the practice of a beginner, as the work with sun salutations. They should see that the vinyasa is done correctly and move them slowly along, building strength and flexibility from the ground up. The body should be given time to adjust to the asanas and the vinyasa system. Vinyasa plays a big role in the sweat and detoxing process within our practice and it is very important to do it correctly.

We really got into a discussion on the breathing style used during our asana practice. Sharath really wants us to understand that what we are doing is free, unrestricted breathing with a little sound. It is not ujjayi pranayama! This is a pranayama technique, which is totally separate from the breath we use during practice. We should hear the sound of our breath, but we shouldn’t try to breath very loud or very strong. That would be too taxing during the intense physical exercises we’re doing. The inhales and exhales should be even. We should relax into each posture with a free flow of breath.

In connection with our lively discussion on breath, a student asked about how bhandas relate to the breath. Sharath said he didn’t even mention bhandas in the discussion because they should be active all the time! Udiyana is more pronounced on the inhale and mula is stronger during exhale. Jalandara, he said is mostly reserved for pranayama. Only when bhandas are perfect during asana should we move on to pranayama. Asanas are like our test grounds to perfect bhandas to ensure that when we get to pranayama study, they are a sturdy foundation.

Despite the physical nature of our asana practice, we are not in Mysore (or attending Mysore style yoga classes in our hometowns/countries) to work out. We are here to gain better clarity and more knowledge. We are here, Sharath reminds us, to bring peace to ourselves and to come to know who we are. The practice can reveal the answer to the question “who am I?” if we let it…

Sharath also took time to address some of the most common questions he gets from students: how often should I practice, how much should I eat and how much should I sleep? All of these should be done in moderation, he said. We should do a little physical asana practice once a day, we should eat enough food to nourish and fuel us, not too much that we become dull, and we should sleep for 6.5 – 7 hours per night. Moderation in everything!

Next a student asked about correcting mistakes. At some point we’ve all, knowingly or unknowingly, hurt another person. So how do we correct the mistakes and move on? Sharath says, simply, to be a better person. Yoga is an ideal tool to help us be better. Make up from your mistakes by changing and acting differently in the future. He reminds us, yet again, that yoga is not just gymnastics. If we are in Mysore to work out and show off, don’t come! Come to learn and be a better person. The world needs more people like yogis. People who learn from their mistakes and actively try to do better going forward.

“You can sail around and around on the ocean for years. But it’s only when you dive in that you know the beauty of the sea.” It’s like this that we should try to dive deeper into yoga, past the physicality of it. We should use it as a tool and an exploration to know ourselves.

“Yoga is my breath and my heart.” –R. Sharath Jois


Conference Notes December 1, 2013

Sharath receiving an award

Sharath began conference by quoting a passage from the Bhagavad Gita and noting that yoga is not new to us. It was old even when the Bagavad Gita was written! He said that when god created this universe, then yoga started.

In the Bhagavad Gita Krishna talks about parampara. This means the passing of knowledge from guru to student. A guru is no ordinary teacher…he is one who dispels darkness and gives proper knowledge: jnana. So, Sharath says, we don’t learn yoga through videos or books. Without a teacher it is impossible to transfer proper knowledge.

I’m always happy when he talks about the difference between cultures in the West and here in the East. He’s aware that most of us in the shala from the western world are used to questioning authority and he’s sympathetic to our experience but invites us to try to surrender. There is a difference in cultural norms from the west to the east. In the west it’s ok to question and rebel from the teacher, but in the east there is a surrender required, which can make practice so much sweeter.

To illustrate, Sharath tells the story of a day he was in a lot of pain from practicing and assisting Guruji with all the students in backbends. During his practice, Guruji came to him to drop him back and Sharath said “No I think I shouldn’t do backbending today.” Guruji smiled and said “no it’s ok, you do,” and somehow as he surrendered to him, he had no pain. It was one of his best practices!

He goes on to say that there’s too much attention on books and videos today that teach the technicalities of yoga. How to jump back and through. How to do asanas. This creates confusion. There should be more attention on the fundamentals of yoga: how to behave, how to act: the yamas and niyamas. These fundamentals make our spiritual foundations strong.

Of course asana is very important but we should understand why. Yoga is to bring health and stability to the body, it is sacred, supreme knowledge. Sharath begs us to leave from our mind the thoughts that a physically advanced practice means an advanced yogi. This is just not true!

There was also time for some student questions during conference. Someone asked how the parampara lineage in Ashtanga Yoga is designed to pick a successor. Sharath explained that it is not designed like that in the Ashtanga system…its not like an ashram, no successor is selected to take the place of the guru. He said (and he’s said it before, which I love) that if we have the knowledge, each one of us can be the successor of the Ashtanga lineage!

There was a question about the six enemies of yoga practice: lust, anger, attraction, pride, greed and jealousy. He makes sure to note that they are enemies to humans, not just to yoga. We are like a pearl covered in an oyster shell. We have six layers outside of us just waiting to be shelled off and to reveal the pearl within, the true authentic self. This takes a lot of hard work. It doesn’t come by taking a workshop or gaining an authorization. But if we are consistent we can make progress.

Sharath also took time to address one of Guruji’s famous quotes: “99% Practice, 1% Theory.” A lot of students have misunderstood the meaning of the quote, he said. It doesn’t mean that we should just do asanas all day and only think about a little bit of theory. On the contrary, it means whatever theory we learn, read, study or encounter, we should put to the text by practicing it applying it to our life. Only then, through practicing the theory is it useful to us.

Someone posed an excellent question, asking: can Ashtanga yoga change the world? I think all of us in the room knew the answer and were so happy to hear him affirm that yes, if practiced correctly, yoga can change the world. Tenants such as ahimsa (nonviolence) can be extremely important to creating world peace. Awareness of our natural world, the resources and their value is vital to saving the world. Again he talked about Guruji, how he never sought fame, but lived simply and did his practice. We too, he advises, should not chase fame and money, let it chase us…run away from it.

To close there was a question about money. Are finances an obstacle to learning yoga today? Sharath immediately answered yes, but said that the KPJAYI has a scholarship program and quite a few students are studying on scholarships. I think it’s important for shalas all over the world to follow suit, offering work exchanges, scholarships and other ways to help make yoga more accessible so that anyone and everyone who wants can become part of this life and possibly world changing yoga.



The full moon was November 17. In traditional Ashtanga Yoga practice, we take rest on the new and full moon. Many believe that because humans are made mostly of water, we too, are affected by the pull of the moon. The moon’s relative position to the earth creates energetic atmospheres, and the full moon’s energy is characterized by an expansive force which can be powerful and full of emotion, but often lacks the feeling of grounding. These are some observations from the full moon day in Mysore…


I’m full,

Floating against this evening’s pale blue sky.

I’m whole,

my illuminated orb

hangs steady,

moving easy over your horizon.
You take rest.


I am dogs barking:

Huddled in packs on the street’s

red clay corner.

Growling, lips curled above canine teeth

until one’s distracted by your smile,

tail wagging, at peace again.

Then pulled back to the wrestle

with a quick bite, a sharp yip.


I am this little boy’s mischief:

Reflected on his dilated pupils

and the rocks he throws –

like insults beyond his age,

tied to firecrackers,

two weeks past Dwali.


I’ve waxed on this energy,

Your nerves

Pulled up like the tide

against chewed finger nails.

Your creative storm surge:

the volume of your chants,

the ferocity of your smile,

the depth of your tears.

Staged Sunrise

6:30am. After morning yoga practice at 4:30am, this is my view walking home and gazing east from my balcony. This is a first draft; presented to you unedited, barely re-read…as a stream of my thoughts…and my first post from India!

Staged Sunrise

This morning’s hazy scrim

raises slower than usual.

Stage hand’s missed his cue again,

but the director decides she likes it anyway.

                Add it to the show!

Cue soft purple light stage left and right,

and turn on the smoky, trash-burnt smell of the fog machine.

Cue crowing roosters…howling chants:

prayers echoing hollow from between homes,

as center stage fades to a rosy glow.

What corner of the sky

my audience’s eye sees

is only a small part of the story.

Past coconut trees,

I understand,

Unfold more stages,

foggy scrims,

directors and lights.

Actors still sleeping, already singing,

audiences seated, stories unfurling.

Cue soft yellow lights.

Cue sunrise: a fire orange spotlight through the banyan trees’ boughs.

Cue today.


On November 9, the day after I wrote this stage-and-sunrise-inspired poem in India, an accidental explosion killed one technician and injured over a dozen more cast and crew members in the Parisian production 1789, in which my partner Michael was an original cast member. I lived in Paris last year while he performed in and created original body-percussion numbers for the show. So from India, with a heavy heart, I dedicate this poem to the family of the victim, to the injured, to the cast, crew, creative team and fans.